Former resident Sam Poullain gives a guided tour of this Singapore suburb: from indie bookshops to the city’s best croissant, here are some of the reasons why Tiong Bahru is Singapore’s coolest hangout.
Built in the 1930’s, Tiong Bahru was the first housing project undertaken in Singapore with over 900 residential and commercial units built.
Nowadays, the gorgeous Art Deco estate is one of the city’s hippest neighbourhoods teaming with cafés, pizza restaurants and boutique shops alongside traditional markets. Even Roman Abramovich was spotted strolling around the lock-ups, which gives an indication of the eye-watering cost of property here.
First up, start your day on Yong Siak Street with coffee and brunch. Forty Hands serves up a range of artisan roasts and brunch favourites to its loyal band of peckish punters. Not to be missed is the eggs cocotte, an intoxicating mix of baked eggs, spinach and mushrooms topped with a generous drizzle of truffle oil and served with toast. Probably my favourite brunch dish, ever.
Just around the corner on Eng Hoon Street Tiong Bahru Bakery now also has branches across town but a visit to the original store is a must. Those with a sweet tooth should try crack-on-a-plate, otherwise known as the almond croissant or kouign amman, while savoury lovers (that’s me) can try a range of freshly-baked buns with delicious fillings.
Another new coffee spot is The Dispensary, which serves up cute cakes and macarons in pharmacy-themed decor of its former premises, while cupcake fans are catered for with Plain Vanilla and its picture perfect bite sized gems.
After a wander around the neighbourhood, sample a side of Singaporean culture, unchanged since the community first settled here, at the hawker centre. Tiong Bahru Food Market, re-opened in 2006 after a major redevelopment, has over 100 food stalls offering everything from Chicken Rice to Char Siew and is widely regarded as one of the best in the city. As with all hawker markets, it’s as cheap as chips and one way of hanging out in Tiong Bahru on the cheap.
Once you’ve enjoyed some grub, take a wander to independent bookshop Books Actually to peruse its beautifully curated selection of classics and new releases or attend one of its many events. The vibrant wonderland of Woods in the Books, just next door, caters mainly for kids and is a great place to pick-up a gift.
Hip boutiques and design shops are popping up regularly alongside coffee shops and bakeries in Tiong Bahru. Nana and Bird on Eng Hoon Street showcases local designer, fashion and jewellery while Strangelets, back on bustling Yong Siak Street, is another cool little design shop where you can pick up trinkets and gifts.
Now, onto that pizza I mentioned. PS Café has been earning a crust in its flagship restaurant on Club Street for years and has now opened PS Café Petit, a smaller outlet to cater for Tiong Bahru’s pizza and wine lovers. Try the Green Goddess, a delicious mix of pesto, broccoli and peas on the signature PS base. YUM.
Another fun place to hang out in the evenings is Two Face Pizza & Taproom, so-called thanks to its double-life as a hawker food market by day and a pizza restaurant at night. What’s great about this street-side place is that you really do feel you are sitting in a hawker shop, but you can also enjoy a cold Sapporo, tunes and watch the world go by at the same time.
Other options for drinks include the cheekily-named Coq and Balls which serves up a huge selection of quality world beers and Japanese bar snacks while Open Door Policy and IKYU on Yong Siak Street offer more contemporary and upmarket fare in a more sophisticated ambient surroundings.
And finally… Male grooming
Boys Brazilian, sir? Hipster barber We Need A Hero does a mean haircut in its ultra-cool 1950s-style shop and also offers a range of male grooming and waxing for the more adventurous metrosexual gentleman. Before you ask, no, I didn’t.
For more tips on what to see and do in Singapore, check out these tips on how to see and do it all without spending a fortune!